By Gov. Dennis Daugaard
South Dakotans across our great state take pride in our rich and diverse landscape. We all have a connection to the land, from the Black Hills to the wide-open spaces of the Great Plains.
Earth Day, April 22, is an opportunity to celebrate not only the beautiful recreational landscape we enjoy, but the working lands in the care of farmers and ranchers from east to west.
Having grown up on a farm, I know how precious the land is to South Dakotans who owe their livelihoods to our natural resources. Our farmers and ranchers take great care to maintain those resources for generations to come.
To recognize those who are dedicated to land and wildlife conservation efforts, the South Dakota Cattlemen's Association, South Dakota Grassland Coalition and the Wisconsin-based Sand County Foundation bestow the Leopold Conservation Award on a farm or ranch family that demonstrates outstanding conservation leadership. The award is named for renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold.
This year's Leopold Conservation Award recipients, Pat and Mary Lou Guptill, are living examples of agricultural leadership in conservation. On their 7,000-acre cattle ranch near Quinn, the Guptills have enhanced the health of their land to make the ranch more profitable in the short and long terms. The Guptill family's strong stewardship of their Jackson County land will help maintain the strength of our agricultural economy for years to come.
For more information on the Guptill Ranch or the many other conservation practices that farmers and ranchers currently employ, visit www.leopoldconservationaward.org
Congratulations to the Guptill family and all the other landowners across South Dakota who take great care with our natural resources. Their dedication ensures our lands remain productive for future generations.